Saint Paul Civic Center

Saint Paul Civic Center

Address 143 West Fourth Street
Saint Paul, MN 55102
  Venue Particulars  
Weather Newspaper
Inter@ctive Venues
  The Facility  
Date Built January 1, 1973
City of St. Paul
(City of St. Paul)
Cost of Construction Unknown
  Other Facts  
Former Tenants Minnesota Fighting Saints
(WHA) 1972-1976
Minnesota Fighting Saints
(WHA) 1976-1977
Minnesota Moose (IHL)
Capacity 16,000
On Site Parking 2,230
Nearest Airport Saint Paul International Airport


The Saint Paul Civic Center (renamed in 1998 to Riverplace Center) opened on January 1, 1973 and the Minnesota Fighting Saints became the new tenant and were strong for several seasons, making the playoffs in their first year. Glen Sonmor was coach for the first half, before leaving coaching to be the GM. Harry Neale replaced him, and coached the Saints through 1976. The Saints' first season went well. Attendance at the Civic Center was steady, and the team finished at 38-37-3, good enough for a fourth place tie in the Western Division. After beating the (Edmonton) Alberta Oilers 4-2 in a one game playoff, which was held in Calgary, the team lost in the first round to Winnipeg 4-1.

For the second year, Harry Neale was the head coach full time. The team was off to a fast start. Wayne Connely had 40 goals, and Bill Klatt had 36. The team finished the season in second place in the Western Division. After defeating Edmonton 4-1, the team lost to Houston 4-2, missing a chance to play the arch-rival Chicago Cougars in the finals. For the record, Chicago lost 4-0 to Houston.

In the third season, attendance continued to rise, reaching an average of 8,410 per game, up from 6,584 the season before. This despite a slip in the Western to third place. The team once again made the playoffs, beating New England 4-2, and losing to Quebec 4-2.

For the 1975-76 season, the Saints tried to sign Bobby Orr from the Boston Bruins, similar to how Winnipeg snared Bobby Hull and Houston got Gordie Howe. Unfortunately, Orr remained with Boston. During the season, attendance remained steady at 8,410. However, money mismanagement was a problem. Things came to a head in February 1976, and on the 27th the Saints folded. Their last game was played at the Civic Center on February 25th, when they lost to the San Diego Mariners in overtime 2-1. After the fold on the 27th, all players were declared free agents.

In 1976, the Cleveland Crusaders moved to Minnesota as the new incarnation of the Fighting Saints. St. Paul promised them big season ticket sales and crowds. Neither materialized. Even though much of the original Saint followers still went to games, the team didn't have enough fans. The only logo changes were the replacement of blue with red in the team logo. After fighting their way thru part of the season, the Saints played their final game, at home against the Indianapolis Racers, on January 14th, winning 9-5. They folded three days later, on January 17th 1977.

Information on this page is from The Complete Historical and Statistical Reference to the World Hockey Association 1972-1979; by Scott Adam Surgent as written by Andrew Stiffler

July 5, 1997 - Dave Kopesky writes: The Saints never played in the Metropolitan Sports Center. The first season started in 1972 at the St. Paul Auditorium, a 7,500 seat dump used until completion of the Civic Center. The St. Paul Auditorium still exists as the Roy Wilkins Auditorium. The North Stars owned the Met Center and refused to make it available to the Saints.

February 10, 1998 - Carlton P. Willis and Andrew W Stiffler writes: When the WHA was on national TV, you may recall seeing a rink that had plexiglass boards. The rink with the plexiglas boards was the St. Paul Civic Center, home of the Fighting Saints. Those boards were removed in 1994 when the IHL Minnesota Moose moved in.

April 4, 1998 - Ken writes: The Saint Paul Civic Center's most popular attraction was not the Saints but the annual Minnesota High School Hockey Tournament. It is scheduled to be demolished in May 1998

October 16, 1998 - Jim McGuire writes: When you talk about the WHA Saints, you must refer them as the Minnesota "fighting" Saints. They were the broard street bullies of the WHA. They had the Carlson brothers, Jack, Steve, & Jeff. Machine gun Gordie Gallant, Curt Brackenberry, Bill Butters, Dave "killer" Hanson, John McKenzie, Ron Busniuk, a very young Paul Holmgren, & "WILD" Bill Goldthorpe. Jack Carlson was the WHA heavyweight champ bar none. He destroyed Nick Fotiu in the1975 playoffs. Mike Walton was scoring 50 goals one season when he had Carlson & Holmgren as his linemates, maybe the toughest line of all time. Gord Gallant for his size (5'10" - 170lbs), could throw them with the best. Brackenberry, & Butters were total team players. They would fight anybody anytime. Hanson didn't earn his nickname "killer" by being a choir boy. Mckenzie could still stir things up. Busniuk was willing & able. Nobody really knows much about Mr. Goldthorpe except that he was wild & crazy. As everybody knows the movie slapshot was about the Carlson brothers in the minors. Olgie Oldthorpe in the movie is the portrait of Bill Goldthorpe. All this was put together by Glen Sonmor. He really loved them tough players.

P.S. if you know where i could get some vidio or pictures of the Fighting Saints please let me know.

On April 22, 1999 Jess Myers wrote: First let me say that I enjoy your website a great deal. Nice work!

I found an error on your page about the St. Paul Civic Center, which met with the wrecking ball last fall. Your page said that the arena was renamed the "Riverplace Center in 1998." This is incorrect. The name of the entire complex (the arena, the auditorium and the convention center, which are all connected) was changed to "RiverCentre" in 1998 and the Civic Center itself was renamed "RiverCentre Arena."

Actually, if you want to add the corporate sponsorship, the complex is officially called the "Touchstone Energy RiverCentre" and the new arena which will house the NHL's Minnesota Wild is expected to be called "Wells Fargo Arena at RiverCentre" or something like that. (The exact corporate sponsor for the arena has not yet been determined, but the companies supposedly in the running are Wells Fargo, NSP and Sprint).

Saint Paul Civic Center

Photo courtesy Chris Gregerson, Phototour of Minneapolis

Minnesota Fighting Saints I

St. Paul Auditorium
St. Paul Auditorium

Cleveland Crusaders/Minnesota Fighting Saints II

Cleveland Arena
Cleveland Arena
Richfield Coliseum
Richfield Coliseum

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